Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Last Void" (1971)

No, this is not Nick Offerman. It's Rickey Torius.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
An issue of Ecstasy.
The story: "The Last Void," originally published in Ecstasy, vol. 3, no. 1, March/April 1971.

Synopsis: Hired killer Rickey Torius staggers out dazedly into traffic, oblivious to the cars on the road. How did he come to this sorry state? Well, some time earlier, he'd gone into a local dive called the Ten High Bar. There, he'd met Lila Sanders, a beautiful "broad" with red hair and blue eyes. He was immediately impressed with Lila's appearance, physique, and intellect. He and Lila hit it off, and he took her back to his place for a one night stand that turned into a long weekend. But Rickey realized too late that his initial meeting with Lila had been no chance encounter. The daughter of one of his former victims, she had been waiting for him.

Wood trademarks: Story about a hitman and a woman who sleeps with him while planning to kill him (literally the same thing happened in "The Hazards of the Game"); the word "fluff" (one of Ed's favorites, cf. "Calamity Jane Loves Hosenose Kate Loves Cattle Anne," "Craps," etc.); cocktail bar (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses).

Excerpt: "Damn if she wasn’t an expert at everything she did. The way she had so swiftly slipped out of her dress… then the removing of his pants. It was like no effort at all was being displayed. It was like everything just came natural as the normal course of events. Then they had their first affair by candle light on Rickey’s soft bed. It was all that he hoped for."

Reflections: Was Ed Wood a misogynist? That's a question for readers to ponder once they've read the stories in Angora Fever for themselves. Eddie himself was a habitual cross-dresser who fetishized women's bodies as well as their clothing, but his male characters in these stories seem to have nothing but bad luck with members of the opposite sex. I haven't been keeping count, but Eddie uses the word "bitch" and "broad" a lot to refer to his female characters, including Lila Sanders. Theoretically, the reader should be on Lila's side here, since she's avenging the death of her father, but we really only get Rickey's side of the story. ("Witches like that could make any man go off his rocker.")

In Charles Schulz's comic strip Peanuts, Linus Van Pelt once declared, "I love mankind... it's people I can't stand." There's something similar going on with Ed Wood, I think. He loves femininity... it's women he can't stand. Edde rhapsodizes over women's hair, clothing, underwear, breasts, etc., etc. But he seemingly has no patience for their minds, their behavior, or their personalities, at least not in these stories. It's becoming clearer to me that Ed Wood was using his fiction to work through a lot of longstanding issues.

Incidentally, I don't normally comment on the artwork that accompanies these stories, since it wasn't done by Ed Wood and doesn't appear in Angora Fever anyway. But I'll make an exception in this case. "The Last Void" is accompanied by sketches of two characters, one male and one female, apparently to represent Rickey and Lila. Rickey appears to be a slightly bloated man with a droopy, walrus-like mustache. He looks like an early '70s version of actor Nick Offerman.

The sunny-faced woman, though, looked eerily familiar to me. A little photo research confirmed it: she's actress-model Susan Bernard, the hapless ingenue of Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and Playboy's Miss December 1966. Those doe eyes of hers are unmistakable

(left) illustration from "The Last Void"; (right) Susan Bernard.

Next: "Super Who?" (1972)